Chew on this: Guilt (and preservative) free beef jerky recipe

Luckily, my boyfriend just so happens to have a dehydrator (don't ask me how or why) so I must give credit to him for preparing this recipe. I was, however, able to witness and document the process, as well as taste the savory results.

You can also make this recipe MacGyver style using a box fan and some air-conditioning filters (thanks to Alton Brown's method below).

Recipe adapted from an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats

1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds of top round beef

2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

2/3 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Special Equipment: Food dehydrator; or Alton Brown's method (The MacGyver way): 1 box fan, 4 paper air-conditioning filters, and 2 bungee cords

[image-1]1. Trim the meat of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and put in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours, in order to firm up.

2. Remove meat from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips. (About 2-3 inches long, and 1/4-1/8 inches thick.)

3. Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large plastic zip-top bag, or in a deep pan or baking dish, and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients and coat the meat. Place into the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.

4. Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry.

[image-2]5. If using a food dehydrator: Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto the dehydrator plates, leaving a bit of room between pieces (do not overlap). After placing all the meat on the plates, attach the top of the machine and set to manufacturer's setting for dehydrating meat. It will take about 8 hours to finish.

If using Alton's method: Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug in and set to medium. Allow the meat dry for 8 to 12 hours.

6. Once dry, store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months.

Beef jerky is one of those snacks that's a guilty pleasure for me. The pleasure is that it's all protein and no carbs, doesn't need to be refrigerated and is a healthier alternative to snacking on chips or a candy bar. The only thing I feel guilty about when eating it are all the chemicals and preservatives that are in the majority of brands you'll find in the store, not to mention all of that added sodium.

Making beef jerky at home is not only possible, it's a lot easier than you'd probably think. Yes, you can go out and purchase a dehydrator, but it can also be made at home in your oven or even by other drying methods (see below). All are simple ways to make your own jerky, with the added health benefit of not worrying about chemicals or preservatives and having a great snack on hand when you have the munchies.

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